Cañon de Sol is first
winery in state to be Latino-owned"
By Vicki Adame
Wine Press Northwest
Wearing blue jeans, a light blue plaid shirt and work boots, Victor
Cruz emerges from a maze of dozens of oak barrels filled with fermenting
His easygoing manner gives no hint that
he not only owns Cañon
de Sol but is also the first Latino winery owner in the state.
The 45-year-old Cruz sits in his small,
white office, reminiscing about the decade-long talks between himself
and childhood friend Charlie
Hoppes. Those chats led to the opening of Cañon de Sol.
Cruz grew-up in Wapato where his parents, first-generation Mexican
Americans, were farm laborers.
"My dad was a very hard-working man. I learned those traits -
being an honest, hard worker - from him," Cruz said.
His parents also instilled a strong value for education in him and
his older sister: Cruz knew education was the key to success.
He earned an engineering degree from Western Washington University.
He worked for Westinghouse for years before taking an early retirement
offer in 1995.
And although Cañon de Sol has seen unbelievable success since
it opened to the public in 2001, Cruz is quick to caution that it was
not an "overnight thing."
Cruz also gives credit where it's due.
It was because of Hoppes' reputation as a winemaker, Cruz said, that
the winery has experienced the success it has.
The two found 45 acres tucked up against the hills in Badger Canyon.
A horse barn became the barrel room.
On a late August day, the barn was filled with oak barrels, including
30 new ones that sat on the concrete floor. The scent of fermenting
wine strikes the senses as soon as the door opens.
Outside, the hum of a John Deere tractor competes with the sound of
construction workers finishing work on a new 5,000-square-foot barrel
At first glance, a visitor to the winery might think he took a wrong
turn. The gravel road sits between an apple orchard on the west and
a hay field on the east.
When a visitor asks where the vineyards are, Cruz laughs and admits
there are none, not yet, anyway.
A buddy from Seattle said the deep-red sign with
the bright yellow lettering is false advertising, Cruz said, because
it reads in part
winery and vineyard.
But the vineyards will come in due time. Sometime in the next five
to 10 years, Cruz explained, because vineyards are hard to put in.
So for now, grapes are bought from local
farmers. Cruz and Hoppes make sure they get the "best grapes
When asked why he would leave the security of a well-paying job, Cruz
said most people harbor the dream of owning a business.
"We (Cruz and wife Kim) were fortunate enough to have extra money
set aside. And that gave me the opportunity to take those chances," Cruz
said. "If I fall flat on my face here, I have that degree and
experience to most likely go back and find a job in engineering."
At first Kim thought it was just "boys talking, but it was a
dream we wanted," Cruz said.
He did not want to go through life wishing
he had taken the chance. So in 1999, after purchasing the property
that would become the home
of Cañon de Sol Winery, Cruz and Hoppes crushed their first
grapes. The crushing was done at Barnard Griffin Winery.
Cañon de Sol became an operational
winery in 2000 and opened to the public in 2001 with two wines -
a 1999 Merlot and 1999 Syrah.
"Since the opening of the gate, we have seen success of our wines," Cruz
Cruz has "a no-big-deal attitude" about
the fact that he is the first Latino winery owner in the state, but
one gets the sense
he does see himself as a role model of sorts.
"I'm not just speaking about Hispanics but minorities as a whole.
The opportunity is there, but it does not happen overnight," Cruz
He does express an interest in marketing his wine to the Latino community
- but not just in Washington. He also would like to see it distributed
in California, New Mexico and Texas.
"I think a Hispanic businessman may like wine from a Hispanic
person," he said.
Although he is breaking new ground, Cruz
said everyone in the wine making industry "has been wonderful
and is never surprised at me owning a winery."
Outside the industry he does get the occasional,
own a winery?" comment.
"I think people are still wondering how a boy from the valley
who grew up in a family of farm workers got to this point," Cruz